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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Ella Fitzgerald was known as the First Lady of Song, but Carla Bruni was the singer-songwriter of first ladies. The Italian-born globetrotting fashion model and girlfriend to rock stars and philosophers recorded a French and international hit in 2002, "Someone Told Me," "Quelqu'un M'a Dit."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "QUELQU'UN M'A DIT")

SIEGEL: Then in 2008, Carla Bruni married Nicolas Sarkozy, who was then president of France, and she became literally a rock star first lady. Now, with Sarkozy out of office, she's released a new album, "Little French Songs," although as you'll hear, I've just mispronounced that title.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LITTLE FRENCH SONG")

SIEGEL: Carla Bruni, welcome.

CARLA BRUNI: Thank you. Hello.

SIEGEL: And I gather that this album, "Little French Songs," has been in the works for quite some time. Did you wait until you were no longer, as we would say, the first lady of France to release it?

BRUNI: Well, what happened, it was a mix of circumstances. I did wait until my husband was not the president of France anymore, but I also waited because I had a little girl, a baby girl, so I had really no choice. And I gave priority to, you know, the baby, of course, and so I did it piece by piece.

SIEGEL: Yeah.

BRUNI: I wrote the album, then I recorded the album in another time, and then I released the album, instead of doing it all at once like most songwriters do.

SIEGEL: But does this mark a change of a period in your life where now - for now, you're back to being an artist...

BRUNI: Yeah.

SIEGEL: ...and you're not - for now, at least, you're not the first lady of France.

BRUNI: Oh, yeah. Oh, it's so nice. I mean, it was great. You know, it was a great honor and a great experience. But talking about the music, it just makes it easier, you know? And also for touring, no security problem, no, you know? It just makes it easy to be an artist for me, definitely.

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHEZ KEITH ET ANITA")

SIEGEL: This is one of the songs from the album. It's "Chez Keith et Anita." I guess we'd say "With Keith and Anita."

BRUNI: "At Keith and Anita," yes.

SIEGEL: "At Keith and Anita"...

BRUNI: Yeah.

SIEGEL: ...this place or whatever.

BRUNI: Yeah. It was very much related to a photograph shoot that was made in the house in the south of France by Dominique Tarle, this French photographer. And this was made at Keith Richard and Anita Pallenberg's house, and this was in the '70s. So I was just born, you know, at the time. So this is not like a personal experience.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHEZ KEITH ET ANITA")

BRUNI: You know, when I saw those pictures and I heard of this album that came out from that time, it was called "Exile on Main Street" - a Rolling Stone album - and the picture was showing such style of life, such a quiet freedom. You know, the '60s and the '70s were very different times. So I guess it would be a song about those years, you know, that no one really remembers now. But we still have the music that came out from those years, the fashion, you know, the look.

SIEGEL: You know what they say about no one remembers.

(LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: They're saying they're so stoned at the time they can't remember what was happening in the 1960s.

BRUNI: Yeah. I remember the first sentence of Keith Richards' biography. It says, believe it or not, I remember everything.

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHEZ KEITH ET ANITA")

SIEGEL: Do you realize how hard it is for Americans to wrap their minds around the thought that this song about nostalgia for Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg, The Rolling Stones and the glamorous life of the wild '60s did - that was the wife of the president of the republic. Just how odd that is for us.

(LAUGHTER)

BRUNI: Yes. Well, you know, I happened to fall in love with this man, and he was the president of the republic. I understand that it might be strange from outside. Of course, from inside, he's just my man and my husband. And, really, the point for me was to be, you know, next to him and to try to help him through his job, if I can use that word.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MON RAYMOND")

SIEGEL: The song on "Little French Songs" "Mon Raymond," "My Raymond," your Raymond, I assume, is not named Raymond.

BRUNI: No.

(LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: This is - why do you refer to your husband as Raymond?

BRUNI: Well, it was kind of a blink, you know, because, as you said, he's so famous, anyway, that I wasn't going to sing (singing) Nicolas, Nicolas, you know? And I tried.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MON RAYMOND")

SIEGEL: You tried to write a song around Nicolas.

BRUNI: There was already a song from a very famous French singer called Sylvie Vartan, and it was called "Nicolas." So that was a song from the '80s. It was very - it was sort of a hit, you know? So - and then I was trying to find another name for him and hesitating between Raymond but also Rogier, you know, Roger, and then I also thought of Raoul.

SIEGEL: Raoul, yeah. Yeah.

BRUNI: Yeah. Raoul. But, you know, Raoul is not so cool for rhymes, you know? You have cool but not so many other rhymes. Raymond, you have a lot.

(LAUGHTER)

BRUNI: It's a round sound. Also, it's sort of an old-fashioned name, you know, for us in France. Raymond was more the people from the '40s, the '50s. I thought it was funny to use such a name to describe him quite precisely.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MON RAYMOND")

SIEGEL: And you have no shortage of rhymes. (Foreign language spoken)

BRUNI: Oh, yeah. Well, you know, I'm not going to say Raymond is no good. Hey.

(LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: He's all good.

BRUNI: Yeah. He's all good...

SIEGEL: He's all good.

BRUNI: ...to me, anyway.

SIEGEL: It's quite a description of your husband. He's an...

BRUNI: Yeah.

SIEGEL: ...atomic bomb.

BRUNI: Yeah.

SIEGEL: He's electric. He's dynamic.

BRUNI: Definitely.

SIEGEL: Definitely.

BRUNI: Yeah.

SIEGEL: This is a realistic- as far as things go, a realistic depiction.

BRUNI: This is a very lucid and realistic description of him, yeah. And loving, of course, you know?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MON RAYMOND")

SIEGEL: The name in France, the name of this CD...

BRUNI: "Little French Songs."

(LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: Oh, the name is in (Foreign language spoken) in France, yes.

BRUNI: Yes. The name is in (Foreign language spoken). Yes. It's - I thought it was fun to also use an English title to describe such a French thing, you know?

SIEGEL: So it's not (Foreign language spoken)

BRUNI: (Foreign language spoken) No.

SIEGEL: It's - and it's not "Little French Songs." It's "Little French Songs."

(LAUGHTER)

BRUNI: Exactly. See, you get it.

SIEGEL: That's exactly it.

BRUNI: Yes, exactly.

SIEGEL: Well, welcome back to the singer-songwriting ranks here.

BRUNI: Thank you very much.

SIEGEL: It's very nice to talk with you.

BRUNI: Thank you so much for inviting me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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